Barebacking banned at IML and other issues

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about a letter sent last month from International Mr. Leather founder and president Chuck Renslow about a new policy on barebacking. In short:

“The Executive Committee of International Mr. Leather has decided that it will no longer allow participation in the IML Leather Market by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes/sells any merchandise tending to promote or advocate barebacking. This restriction will also apply to distribution of gifts, postcards or any other information via our facilities.”

The letter states that IML feels it is obligated to do everything in its power to educate anyone who may believe that HIV/AIDS is manageable or curable, particularly younger generations who may not have experienced the overwhelming loss of loved ones to AIDS or the expense and difficulties associated with HIV meds.

I applaud IML for taking this stance, but at the same time I can’t help but scratch my head.

It goes without saying that barebacking is at the top of the list of high-risk sexual activities that can result in exposure to HIV. And it follows that community leaders should do everything they can to encourage people to make sound decisions that lead to healthy, happier lives.

But if IML is going to be honest about this policy, then the Leather Market could be a ghost town next year.

Some feel the policy targets certain companies known for producing bareback movies, such as Treasure Island Media. Founded in 1998, TIM certainly seems to enjoy its outlaw reputation, even going so far as to film in rooms and stairwells at the host hotel during IML weekends. They may be one of the more notorious purveyors of bareback porn, but they are just one company in a very crowded and competitive market.

In fact, the times I’ve been to IML, the TIM booth was completely dwarfed by those of “mainstream” companies like Colt, Raging Stallion and Channel One Releasing. If you check their Web sites, you’ll find that each of these companies currently lists a number of bareback or “pre-condom classic” movies for sale. Will they all be banned from the Leather Market too?

Saying that a pre-condom movie is not the same as a bareback movie is misleading and dishonest. The term barebacking may not have been coined until the ’90s, but the movies have the same goal — to get you off by showing guys not using condoms. Are these companies really asking us to believe they’re selling pre-condom classics solely as a service to film-history buffs?

As a film-history buff myself, even I don’t buy that.

Barebacking is barebacking, plain and simple. And the current genre, if you want to call it that, exists because people think it’s hot and they want to purchase it. One of the things that surely helps make it hot is the risk factor and the forbidden nature of it. Which, coincidentally, is also one of the things that draws men to leather.

This is very complicated.

Personally, I’m torn on the issue. I’ll be honest: I think bareback porn is incredibly hot, but I think random bareback sex in the real world is stupid and irresponsible. I recognize the paradox and the hypocrisy. I know those are real guys in bareback porn because I’ve met a few of them.

I worry about those guys. Not while I’m sitting there with a handful of Gun Oil enjoying their performance, mind you, but afterward I do think about them and how they got in front of those cameras. What led them to make the decisions that landed them on my TV screen?

I tell anyone who asks for my advice what my mentor told me as a teenager: You should treat everyone you’re with as if they’re HIV-positive and keep yourself safe any way you can. You’re free to make any decision you want, but some decisions have consequences that are tough to live with.

“Safe, Sane and Consensual,” urged by the leather community for many years, is a fine policy, but are we now going to start enforcing it? If so, who’s going to do the enforcing? Is greater acceptance by the general public worth the price of our personal freedom?

On the flip side, what about personal health and safety, and the health and safety of the community? By showing a bareback video at a play party, what are we saying to the next generation of gay leathermen?

And, last but not least, what about censorship? Do leathermen need IML and Renslow exerting their influence on the marketplace and deciding what we are and are not allowed to see? If there’s a demand for it, who are they to cut off the supply?

I’m still searching for answers to many of these questions. It’s difficult for me because, like so many things, there just aren’t any easy answers.

I’d be very interested to know what you think about this. E-mail me at the address below if you want to sound off in next month’s column. Leather gossip, girl

Speaking of contests, it looks like the status of this year’s Mr. and Ms. Philadelphia Leather contest is in limbo. The producer, MidAtlantic LeatherSir 2008 Andy Liu, recently moved out of the area and had to step aside from the position.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing like competing in a leather contest. You can meet some amazing people and get the chance to do some amazing things. But without a producer, the show cannot go on.

I’ve also said I think there are too many contests these days, severely diluting the pool of interesting contestants and interested guests. But with 25 years of fun and outrageous history behind it, I think it would be a crying shame if the Philly contest didn’t happen. I hope they find someone soon.

UPCOMING EVENTS

— BLACK AND BLUE BALL: 9 p.m. Aug. 29 at The Bike Stop, 206 S. Quince St., with DJ Goddess Morgaine, dungeon play area, Jell-O shots, discounted draft and raffles, sponsored by Boy Butter. — KOMMONA WANNA LAYA POOL TOURNAMENT: 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at The Bike Stop, $5 entry fee, cash prize to the winner. Beach or swimwear encouraged! — BODY HEAT: FEMME PORN TOUR: 8 p.m. Sept. 2 at The Bike Stop. Body Heat will turn you on while challenging all of your gender, sex, feminist, social and political boundaries and assumptions. Body Heat is porn, kink, smut and erotica that will entertain the hell out of you and leave you panting, begging and dripping for more. — LAID SATURDAYS: Every Saturday at 8 p.m., 200 S. 12th St., featuring hot bartenders and guest DJs. Wear your gear! www.laidsaturdays.com — WOOF! PHILLY: Every Sunday at 5 p.m., 200 S. 12th St. See www.woofphilly.com for DJ and dancer schedules.

Questions? Comments? IML opinions? Contact Jim at [email protected].